Yes, a broken Konark as it is

By Sabyasachi Amitav

Konark, may be it is broken, but it persists with Odisha’s artistic manifestation, cultural history and significance of the glorious past. The news that  expresses the desire of noted sculptor and unsuccessful politician Padma Vibhushan Raghunath Mohapatra to have second ‘Sun Temple’ in Puri-Bhubaneswar national highway with a whopping 600 crore brings million dollar questions. Is it worth spending 600 crore on a temple in city or an absurd idea or a political gimmick?

Without any positive signals from any corporate or government agencies to his repeated requests for construction of the second Sun Temple, Mr Mohapatra has decided to build his dream structure on his own strength.

The temple project will be executed with an estimated cost of Rs 600 crore. To be built in an area of 100 acres alongside the Puri-Bhubaneswar national highway, the temple will be named as Aditya Nararayan Mandir, which will be completed within a stipulated period of eight years.

Ragunath Mohapatra is almost ready with the diagram of the project.  He was negotiating with local people for purchase of the required land. To query about the fund required for the project, the sculptor said, “I have support of the people of Odisha and culture lovers of other states. I don’t think fund will be a constraint.”

Odisha acknowledged the contribution and achievements of Raghunath Mohapatra in no ambiguous terms. He deserves the kudos for bringing laurel to the state through his great artistic achievements. The state felt proud when he was awarded the prestigious ‘Padma Vibhushan’. But, his proposal for Second Sun Temple, if becomes a reality, can hardly serve the interest of people in the city or state.

It is a fact that our monuments form an irreplaceable archive of our civilizational heritage. Our pride in our heritage has always been surplus while caring for that heritage suffers a huge deficit. We cannot create the same magic by replicating another monument to replace the old one. Be it Agra’s Taj Mahal, Hyderabad’s Char Minar, Puri’s Jagannath Temple or Konark’s Sun Temple, they have their own importance and historical significance. Considered one of the seven wonders of the country, ‘Konark’ the 13th century temple made by Ganga King Narasingha Dev I, stands testimony to Utkaliya (Odishan) form of stone art.  A new temple or structure, how beautiful it may be, can not draw the same attention what they have been doing for centuries.

Ironically, the Odisha government, may show its interest on Mohapatra’s proposal to build another Sun Temple, which will be the mirror image of the first one. The desire to have another Sun Temple may be said is to drag the attention of overseas tourists. But, who on this world can claim that the new Sun Temple proposed at Puri-Bhubaneswar NH will be better and more beautiful than the original one?  The truth of the matter is that one hopes without second Sun temple, Odisha will cease to exist. Other than that, there is no reason to go ahead with something that is such a clear criminal waste of money.

The criminal waste of money, being politically patronized by present ruling party who has already unsuccessfully fielded Raghunath Mohapatra for a membership to India’s upper house, may have a political interest to befool the Odisha voters or to regain the lost image of Biju Janata Dal. The intellectuals and social media giants term the announcement as a planned move to deviate the failure of Naveen who wants to play a safe game with Odisha’s artistic nostalgia, dignity and legacy though he has badly failed to speak common’s language in his ruling state for long twenty years.

It really is a shame that no one felt that money could have been put to better use — perhaps it could have saved some lives; perhaps it could have given someone an education; perhaps it could have made Bhubaneswar cleaner; perhaps it could have improved the quality of life, Similarly it could pay for a micro-irrigation programme to bring water to thousands of farmers for over two years or restore 10 hospitals in twin city, Instead, we have dream Second Sun Tample ‘Konark’ that will bear mute witness to a city in decline.